Deco Capital’s crusade to shut down Beach Towing in Sunset Harbour heats up

Developer of Sunset Park mixed-use residential and retail project alleges Beach Towing’s site next door is no longer compatible with the neighborhood

Sunset Park rendering and 1349 Dade Boulevard (Credit: Domo Architecture and Design and Google Maps)
Sunset Park rendering and 1349 Dade Boulevard (Credit: Domo Architecture and Design and Google Maps)

Deco Capital Group’ s two-year battle to shut down Beach Towing next to its planned Sunset Park mixed-use residential and retail project in Sunset Harbour is taking a new turn.

The developer is appealing an administrative determination by Miami Beach Planning Director Thomas Mooney that concluded towing services are allowed on Beach Towing’s property at 1349 Dade Boulevard.

The issue is going before the Miami Beach Board of Adjustment on Friday.

Through its development entities Sunset Island Associates and SH Owner, Deco Capital Group is challenging Mooney’s August 2018 determination that Beach Towing can operate a tow yard because the property was grandfathered in when the city revamped its city code in 1989 to no longer permit towing services in the city’s Sunset Harbor neighborhood. Beach Towing has been at its current location since 1986.

“For us, the appeal before the board of adjustment is simply about our rights as a neighbor and wanting the city to enforce its own zoning rules when it comes to our neighbors,” Deco Capital Managing Principal Bradley Colmer said.

Ralph Andrade, an attorney for Beach Towing, declined comment.

Deco Capital Group and Beach Towing have been engaged in a long-running dispute that has spilled over to Miami-Dade Circuit Court. In 2016, Deco Capital sued Beach Towing after the tow company and residents of the Lofts at South Beach Condominium opposed the developer’s quest for a height increase of its initial project on nine lots at 1733-1769 Purdy Avenue and 1730 Bay Road. The same year, Deco Capital delivered a legal memo to the city arguing Beach Towing’s operations in Sunset Harbor was in violation of Miami Beach zoning regulations.

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In response to Deco Capital’s lawsuit, the Miami Beach City Commission voted last year to file a legal brief that required Mooney to determine if indeed Beach Towing’s yard violates city code. In August of last year, he drafted a memo that explained the city changed the zoning code in 1989 to ban tow yards in Sunset Harbour. However, since Beach Towing had been operating in the neighborhood since 1986 under rules that allowed commercial properties to be used for “automobile and truck storage,” Mooney concluded the company can continue to use its property for towing.

In a Sept. 28, 2018 letter from Deco Capital’s lawyer Tracy Slavens, the developer claims that Mooney’s determination should be overturned because the previous zoning code Mooney referenced does not explicitly state “towing services” are allowed.

“This determination will result in a negative impact on the appellants, as well as all of the affected persons in the vicinity of 1349 Dade [Boulevard],” the letter states. “The towing use is intense, intrusive and is no longer compatible with the changed character of the surrounding properties in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood.”

Meanwhile, Beach Towing filed a petition in Miami-Dade Circuit Court last month, challenging the city’s planning board’s approvals of two conditional use permits that will allow Deco Capital Group to build a mixed-use structure of more than 50,000 square feet and two restaurants with more than 100 seats, each. The board greenlit the permits on Nov. 27.

As planned, Sunset Park would be a roughly 67,000-square-foot development consisting of five stories with 20,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space with two larger restaurant spaces, two cafes, and four traditional retail units. The building would have one level of parking and three stories of condos.

“Beach Towing has been attempting to obstruct us for years,” Colmer said. “Their appeal of the planning board’s decision is a further example of the continued pattern of obstruction.”